Natural born designer uses Anglo-French flair to take risks and embrace new ideas
Who is she?
Margaux Lhermitte is creative director and co-founder of NE-ON Architecture and Design. She was born in Paris to a family of designers. At 18-years-old she was offered the chance to go to London to study interior design. It opened her mind to a new culture. The London design scene was much more daring and creative than Paris, because Londoners could accept and appreciate thinking forward concepts when, at the time, Parisians remained very conservative in their taste.
Lhermitte later did an internship at Jean Nouvel Design in Paris. In 2002 she went to study Design at Lahti Polytechnic School in Finland. There she learned to work on details, focus on function before the form.
In 2005 Lhermitte arrived in Shanghai to set up a China studio for a French architect. And from 2005 to 2015 she was the studio co-director and designed projects in China, Japan, HK, India.
In Shanghai she discovered a new world rooted with cross-cultural people, melting pots of heritage, architecture and unlimited opportunities. She had to adapt to the speed of the city but this dynamism is what keeps her creative too. And in 2015 it was no surprise when Lhermitte started her own company with Ellen d’Anterroches: NE-ON.
Please share with us some of your works and name the one you are most proud of.
We design a lot of commercial projects such as boutique, restaurant, hotels and resorts, and sometimes residential ventures for very exclusive clients. We are very selective with our projects because we want to make the result the best possible. We recently designed a skincare center in Beijing, named 45cm.
I wanted the space to be intimate and feminine, but using hard materials such as perforated metal panels that are not usually associated with spa and beauty. This contrast emphasizes the brand message: They are a medical center using high-tech equipment, but they are not a hospital. All the furniture was custom designed for the brand, as well as the lobby marble floor pattern and the rounded VIP room walls.
Are you currently involved with any project?
We have several projects on the go, which will open in early 2018. The next one will be a Club Med resort in Anji, a few-hours-drive from Shanghai. The location is amazing, surrounded by a bamboo forest and tea fields. Our design concept is focused on nature inside and outside. The result will be quite refreshing, as Club Med is not a typical resort. They emphasize on the guest experience with unique activities and unique interiors.
What's your design style.
I wouldn’t say that I have a specific style you could easily recognize, but I pay very strong attention to details, materials and colors. Every project is a tailor made design because each client has his or her needs and positioning. I like to take risks and experiment with new ideas: I cross-field ideas from retail to hotel to restaurant.
Where are you most creative?
I create every day in everything I do, everywhere: How I dress, what I cook, what I design. The most important thing is to keep innovating: Never rest, never stop. Keep pushing yourself to improve and learn.
What does your home mean to you?
My home is a comfort space to enjoy quality family time and to collect memories. It is a necessary space to protect from the outside world, but also to inspire new concepts. My home is alive, this is why it is sometimes quite messy and keeps evolving every month. I like to move things around, add a piece here and there. A home is not a photo of the past, it links history to future.
What do you collect?
I collect art, mostly from young Chinese artists and abroad. I buy an artwork when I have a strong feeling for it. And I usually know the artists from a friend of friends. The problem now is that I have a lack of walls in my home, so it get very crowded!
Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?
I love wandering in the streets of Shanghai without any purpose. This is the best way to discover amazing buildings. I am a big fan of Hudec’s architecture, and all the Art Deco style. I like to enter buildings and explore they hallways and corridors. Some of the floors, handrails and wall patterns are really amazing.
What will be the next big design trend?
There is no one trend, but rather a lot of trends. I feel the “slow design” will be a bigger thing soon. After all the hectic developments in Shanghai, it is time to slow a little and go back to the roots: handmade, craftsmen and artisans. We need to stop mass-producing “throw away” goods, but instead work on handcrafted pieces that can last decades, and be a heritage for the next generation.